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  1. Career Advice
  2. Career Change
  3. How can you use your Linkedin headline for a career change?
How can you use your Linkedin headline for a career change?
Profile Emma Smith

Emma Smith

How can you use your Linkedin headline for a career change?

Artwork by: Fagiani

  • Overview of a LinkedIn headline
  • Let your LinkedIn headline guide your career change
  • Craft your LinkedIn headline for career change for the job you want 
  • The format
  • Common LinkedIn headline for career change mistakes to avoid
  • Make your profile an extension of your headline
  • Key takeaways

One of the greatest tools for job seekers today is the website LinkedIn. Not only can you search for jobs, grow your network, and build credentials, but you can also use it to propel your career change forward. Follow these tips on how to write a LinkedIn headline to support your career change.

Changing careers is an exciting and nerve-wracking time for any professional. It takes a lot of courage to pursue your passions. If you are in this position, congratulations on taking the leap! 

Many professionals are already on LinkedIn (if you aren’t, this is your sign to create an account!). If you’re wondering how to optimize your LinkedIn profile to benefit your job search, a great place to start is with your headline.

The approach you take for your headline will be different depending on the goal you’re trying to achieve. If you are currently employed and looking to network for your job, your headline will look very different from someone who is currently employed but looking to change careers. Follow these tips if you belong to the latter group.

In this article you’ll find:

  • Examples throughout of LinkedIn headlines to use during your career change

  • What formats to use for your career change LinkedIn headline

  • What not to put in your LinkedIn headline

Overview of a LinkedIn headline

Every company and user on LinkedIn has the option to add a headline. When your profile comes up on someone’s search results, they usually see a small box with your profile photo, your name, and your headline. In essence, your headline is the first snippet that a recruiter sees of what you have to offer.

Keep it brief

LinkedIn headlines are capped at 220 characters. That’s a relatively limited allowance for showcasing yourself in a way that will captivate the reader. Writing an effective LinkedIn headline for a career change also means being able to write efficiently. For reference, this paragraph alone contains 392 characters. So headlines are actually just a few keywords rather than a full statement.

Let your LinkedIn headline guide your career change

The best advice for someone who is currently in the process of changing careers is to let your headline guide the direction you’re hoping your career will move. To achieve this, don’t write about your existing career or achievements, but rather the roles you hope to fill. 

The general reason for using LinkedIn at all is for professional networking. As a job seeker, the goal is to be found by recruiters who are using the search function. To do this, you need certain aspects of your LinkedIn profile to target the same elements that a recruiter is looking for. 

Think like a recruiter

One trick to writing a career change headline is to think about it from the perspective of a recruiter. When a recruiter sees your job application in their folder, one of the first things they do is turn to your LinkedIn. Their eyes will dart to your headline. Do you want it to show where you’re coming from, or where you’re going?

The answer: where you’re going. 

One thought running through all recruiter’s minds is, “How is this person relevant to the position I’m looking to fill?” You want there to be no mistake in your relevance. Therefore, write your headline for the job you’re hoping to land or the industry you’re working towards entering to avoid being disregarded early in the process.

Craft your LinkedIn headline for career change for the job you want 

Similarly to your headline, you want your job title to represent where you’re going. This is especially pertinent for someone going through a career change. Recruiters review hundreds of applicants for any given position. While you always want to be honest, it is worth noting that if your current job title doesn’t match the role that a recruiter is searching for, there is potential to be overlooked.

So, how can this be avoided?

For the time being, change your current job title to something relevant to your search. If you are seriously pursuing a career change, chances are you’re putting in more effort than just altering your LinkedIn profile. Perhaps you’re enrolled in online courses, LinkedIn learning certificates, or in a physical apprenticeship. If you are working at developing a new skill, then displaying it publicly is still an honest representation of yourself. Once you land the job, go ahead and change your headline to better brand yourself for the new position. 

The format

Among all the LinkedIn headlines that exist, you’ll only see a handful of formats that are repeated often. They are tried and true formats that are generally well-received, and therefore can be considered safe routes. Anyone who has changed careers knows that you have to fake it to make it, at least for a little while. The following formats are ways to sell yourself without outing yourself as a newbie. 

The “Recent grad” format

If you recently graduated from a university, certification course, or boot camp, state it in your headline. 

Try something like, “Recent computer coding graduate, specializing in full-stack development using Javascript, Node. js, Python, and HTML coding languages”.

Using the word ‘recent’ can actually really benefit you during a career change. It’s often stressed that you shouldn’t leave time gaps on your resume. And while that's a good rule of thumb, career changers are bound to face some gaps during their transition. If you have a bunch of experience in banking over the last 10 years, then a one-year gap followed by a statement about you recently earning your realtor's license, recruiters will understand what you’re going through, and you might even stand out because of it. 

The “I enjoy ____” format

This one is quite common in the LinkedIn world. It’s a great lighthearted approach that still details what you do. 

An example is, “I enjoy creating safe spaces in companies by delivering leadership training, staff onboarding, and moderating conflict management”. 

The ‘I enjoy’ format is an excellent route for career changers because it sidesteps your current title, allowing the reader to focus purely on how you match their needs. This route is good because it breaks apart the whole of your intended position, and describes the details. Calling yourself an HR person doesn’t speak to all the hats you need to wear in such a position. The example above details the different tools in your kit, while also saying you enjoy performing them. It’s a perfect tone to set!

The “Quantified expertise” format

Perhaps the most intuitive approach for a headline format is to have your role, or the role you’re pursuing, followed by some kind of deliverable. Consider the following examples.

Example #1

Someone hoping to land a similar position in a new industry

Chief Financial Officer | 15+ years bookkeeping experience | CPA of industry-lead manufacturer

From this headline, a recruiter could assume that the candidate has been working in finance for their entire career. One could also assume that the candidate is in a career change in hopes of landing a similar but different job, transitioning from an accountant to a CFO. The headline shines a light on their past and future, as well as hinting at their qualifications. 

Example #2

Someone pursuing a new position in a new field

Nonprofit sector | 20+ years corporate management experience | Member of United Way Worldwide

This candidate’s headline indicates a career change by stating the new sector first, followed by a different sector. By noting that they have a full career's worth of work experience already under their belt, it shows that they are an experienced professional and therefore likely have many transferable skills. Assuming the recruiter is someone who works for nonprofits, they will likely gather that this individual is seeking a higher-level position such as CEO or director. And they will probably assume the candidate is looking to be a part of a national or global scale nonprofit because the candidate made a point of adding their affiliation with one of the world’s largest. 

The “flair” format

Homogeneity is the curse of the workforce. Most people will move through their careers making predominantly linear moves. They will grow their experience, skills, and responsibilities within a certain title or level, without necessarily rising in the ranks. Simply put, many people hit roadblocks around mid-level in their careers. When a lot of applicants look similar to you on paper, it makes it hard to stand out. Therefore, if there is some eccentric but relevant position you’ve held or a unique duty you’ve done throughout your career, use it to spotlight yourself. 

Consider this example of a project manager:

I manage large-scale commercial building projects, including shopping centers, apartment complexes, and even a processing plant for medicinal herbs.

Chances are, this candidate will be asked first about the medicinal herb processing plant. Similarly, they’ll likely be remembered by some nickname like ‘the herb guy’. And just like that, they are standing out from the crowd. It pays to have flair. 

Common LinkedIn headline for career change mistakes to avoid

While it may seem like a lot of information on what to make sure your headline has, it's easier to just avoid the following common LinkedIn headline mistakes. 

Not having a headline at all

It should go without saying at this point, but yes, it actually happens that some people don’t even add a headline. It is highly recommended to utilize the allotted space! You’d be missing out on a prime opportunity for marketing yourself if you were to leave this space blank. 

Showing off your connection numbers 

It bears repeating–professionals do not care how many connections you have on LinkedIn. No one knows why or when this trend kicked off, but there are far too many people advertising the breadth of their LinkedIn network as a selling point. Remember, LinkedIn headlines (for job seekers) are an opportunity to get a recruiter's attention by displaying your goals, achievements, or trajectory. For most positions in the world, LinkedIn connections do not speak to those fields. 

Being vague

Too often you’ll see people offering too little information in their headlines. Examples would be, “VP/GM” or “Communications and Brand Management”. What you should be clarifying is the industry or specialty field that your role relates to. 

You might have heard before that it benefits you to have a professional niche. A position like brand management has a place in every single industry and company. And as an extension, it means that job postings for such positions are likely flooded with candidates. So, if a scented candle company is looking for a brand manager, and they are reviewing the 150 applications they received, and all candidates have similar qualifications, who is going to stand out? The candidate who also has an interest or experience working in hospitality retail, or even directly with scented candles. 

Expert Tip

Do you know the niche you’re applying for but don’t quite have the relevant experience? Go to the interests section of your LinkedIn profile and add it. 

For example, if you’re applying for a facility manager position at the local professional baseball stadium, your LinkedIn should show that you are interested in Major League Baseball, and add a few of your favorite teams to top it all off. 

Make your profile an extension of your headline

Whatever direction you choose to go for your headline, it will be way more effective if the content of your LinkedIn profile expounds upon it. If you have achievements from your past that weren’t relevant or recent enough to have on your headline, add it to your LinkedIn profile instead, and take the time to elaborate. 

Key takeaways

  1. Make your headline reflect the direction you want your career to go.

  2. Use one of the tried and true LinkedIn headline formats.

  3. Don’t leave your headline empty, vague, or focused on the wrong thing.

Profile Emma Smith

Emma Smith

Emma is a certified employment specialist with over 6 years of experience in career mentorship and employment training. With an affinity for technical writing, Emma is passionate about developing training manuals, policy and procedures, onboarding documents, and fiscal management systems. In 2020 she helped design Colorado’s first state-certified training program for people with disabilities entering the workforce.

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